Historic Ruling Shuts the Door on the Achelous River Diversion
By a ruling published on Friday 10 January, the Greek Council of State has irrevocably overturned all plans made insofar for the Achelous River diversion. Thus, our more-than-20-years consistent and patient ecological fight to save this great river from an unreasonable ill-conceived project, and Greece from the waste of still unknown billions of euros is acknowledged and justified.
This is a historic ruling, which definitively confirms the conservation of the environment at a national but also at a European level, suggesting what the principle of sustainable development should really be about now.
All pleas put forward by NGOs and stakeholders opposing to the Achelous diversion were accepted by Ruling 26/2014 of the Plenary:
- Infringement of Article 24 of the Greek Constitution referring to protection of the environment
- Infringement of the European Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)
- Infringement of the 85/337/EEC Directive on the Assessment of Certain Public and Private Projects on the Environment
- Infringement of the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)
- Infringement of the Granada Convention (1985) for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe.
In the light of the aforementioned infringements, the Court ruled that the diversion project plans preclude the principles of sustainable development.
The Supreme Court’s ruling raises serious questions on the legality of the decisions that are about to approve once again the diversion works, namely the Western Central Greece and Thessaly water management plans, at least regarding the provisions related to the project.
The Hellenic Ornithological Society, WWF Greece, Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature and Mediterranean SOS Network NGOs feel that their 20-year efforts have been justified. They also welcome this decision as a milestone for the conservation of the environment in Greece and as a starting point for ecologically and socially sustainable agricultural policies and practices.
The next day brings hope for the deterrence of a huge environmental crime and for environmental justice, but also urges for a shift towards an ecologically, socially and financially sustainable growth model. Furthermore, it opens a new chapter for the restoration of the site, which has been severely damaged by the insofar construction works, a matter ought to be considered by the respective water management plans. On the other hand, it raises questions and anger for the huge financial losses Greece has suffered because of works that have already been carried out.
Will someone account for the waste of public money and for the environmental crime being committed since the beginning of the ’90s?
Note for Editors
With an application filed in 2006, several environmental groups and local stakeholders had requested the annulment of administrative acts of approving, tendering and awarding contract to a building firm/construction company for the Achelous diversion project. Prior to that, four cycles of proceedings had resulted in three annulling judgments by the same court, but they were never really taken into consideration by the then Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Georgios Souflias. Another annulling judgment followed, this time on the Ministry’s refusal to transparently provide information and official documents about the project. In 2009, a suspension of the construction works was issued.
Since the issues brought up during the latest proceedings were also related to the implementation of the EU legislation, the Council of State referred 14 questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in 2009. The CJEU decision, which was published in the autumn of 2012, paved the way for the Greek Council of State final decision, as the court held in its judgment that provisions of important EU Directives are infringed.